Today I had my first guest speaker lecture, and I was surprised at how much information my brain was able to compromise in the short space of time that is an hour. The guest was Janet Williams, specialised in marketing and finance - a HR advisor at the home shopping company behind the likes of SimplyBe and over 30 other successful catalogue brands.
The company was founded in 1859, when Manchester entrepreneur James David Williams began work with three mobile shops. In 1875, the aptly named JD Williams was established as his first company. He was then the first person to use the Royal Mail's new Parcel Post service to forward his career and get his products into the hands of his customers quicker.
JD Williams has now developed immensely, and offers an extensive range of products, with over 80,000 product lines per year. They produce 480,000 images per year, 400 leaflets per year and deliver over 600,000,000 items a year to their customers. Their turnover is an impressive £690m, with a profit of £93m. A massive 52% of their sales are from their womenswear ranges. The other ranges of products they offer are menswear, footwear, home & garden, electrical, gifts and health and beauty.
Up until the rise of computers, the companies sales had been completely from mail order catalogues, but now JD Williams is the definition of a multi channel business. These figures have now changed drastically, with 45% of their orders coming from the telephone, 45% from the internet and only 10% from their postal service.
Their recent celebrity endorsements have been a huge success for the brands, with the likes of Gok Wan and his underwear range and Freddie Flintoff starring as the new face of Jacamo, the most popular mens fashion brand under the JD Williams umbrella.
One thing which JD Williams prides itself on is the unique selling points of their company. The most obvious of these is their plus sizes, because body sizes are getting bigger these days and these bigger bodies are now a lot more fashionable. JD Williams offer fashionable items in a much wider size range than most companies on the highstreet do, with womenswear products offered from sizes 12-38, and menswear up to a size 72 inch chest, 64 inch waist.
Because of the customer being so important to the brand, and the fact that they are targeting them directly, JD Williams and its numerous different brands are highly successful and making impressive profits year after year. Customer profiling is so important in the retail industry, and after hearing about the extensive way that this company analyses their customers, it is not surprising that the customer feels so comfortable shopping with them and comes back time after time.
SimplyBe now has flagship stores, and I learnt today that the sales assistants are picked to portray the target customer. They need to have extensive knowledge of the products and their fit, and they need to represent the brand in a positive way. They will not usually be tiny frames, because this is not representative of the brand and they want their customer to feel comfortable and leave knowledgable about the clothes which suit them and their body shape.
This was a very interesting experience and taught me a lot about how many different processes are involved in being a successful ecommerce and mail order company. The structured process that goes into each sector of the business is extensive, and this plays a massive part in the success of JD Williams.